How to keep a film journal

A film/movie concept image, including 3D glasses, popcorn, drinks, tickets, and a director's board.

A film journal may not feel essential if you only watch a few films each year. However, for those with a profound passion for cinema or those aspiring to forge a career in the film industry, keeping a movie journal can unlock a treasure trove of benefits and insights.

Watching films transcends mere entertainment for some — it’s an art form. A film journal allows you to contemplate the nuances of storytelling, cinematography, and character development — fostering a deeper appreciation for the medium.

So, grab your popcorn and join us as we dive into why maintaining a film journal can be a valuable practice. We’ll also provide expert tips to enhance your journaling experience.

Why keep a film journal?

A film journal serves as a personal review log, providing a dedicated space to collect your reflections on each movie you watch. The act of creating it can be both rewarding and cathartic.

Journaling offers a valuable tool for processing thoughts, shaping opinions, and fostering a deeper engagement with films. It encourages you to uncover subtleties, symbolism, and themes that might have gone unnoticed.

Additionally, it hones your critical thinking skills, enabling you to analyse and articulate the strengths and weaknesses of a film, which refines your ability to evaluate and appreciate cinema.

A film journal records your growth as a cinephile, illustrating how your cinematic tastes and understanding evolve. It also serves as a handy reference point when discussing movies, actors, or directors with friends at a later date.

For aspiring filmmakers, the journal takes on a multifaceted role. It becomes a canvas for making notes on narrative elements, plot intricacies, character development, acting performances, lighting, camera techniques, production design, and sound.

You can even use a journal to craft plans for your own film projects — detailing your target audience, potential talent, distribution strategies, and financing considerations.

Tips for keeping a film-watching journal

An audience of two people watching a film/movie at the cinema, while eating popcorn.

Watching movies at the cinema can enhance the experience

Choose a journal

The more you like the look and feel of your journal, the higher the chances that you’ll consistently put it to good use. Therefore, selecting your journal is a decision to be made with care.

A compact notebook might be the ideal choice when creating a movie bullet journal. However, for traditional film journaling, we’d advise opting for a medium or large-sized notebook, considering the size of your handwriting and the layout you intend to use.

Decide on a format

While the temptation to jump right into your first journal entry is strong, it’s important to resist and take a moment to establish a consistent layout for your journal.

For each entry, consider including:

  • date of viewing
  • viewing location (home, cinema, etc.)
  • who you watched the film with
  • film release date
  • film title
  • genre
  • writer(s)
  • film director(s)
  • film producer(s)
  • running time
  • main actors
  • supporting cast
  • star rating
  • your reflections on the film
  • a detailed review
  • favourite quotes
  • diagrams or drawings.

You might like to dedicate space in your journal for a list of movies you intend to watch in the future, allowing you to mark them off as you experience each one.

Capture your interests

Much like a reading journal, a movie journal is a personal reflection of your cinematic journey. Therefore, it should encapsulate everything that piques your interest in the world of films.

Conversely, if you find certain aspects less captivating, such as directorial details, you’re free to omit them from your journal entries.

For those with a penchant for meeting actors at conventions and other events, you might even want to allocate a dedicated space within each journal entry to collect autographs.

Journal immediately

The most opportune moment to make a journal entry is right after the end credits have rolled and the film’s impressions are vivid in your mind.

If you happen to watch a film late into the night, the urge to postpone journaling may be strong, but it’s advisable to at least jot down your initial thoughts and emotions before surrendering to sleep. The swifter you capture your thoughts in your journal, the more intricate and comprehensive they’re likely to be.

Schedule time to appreciate your journal

While the emphasis in journaling often revolves around consistent writing, it’s equally crucial to spend time perusing your journal and relishing the words you’ve previously penned.

Fellow film enthusiasts might also enjoy the opportunity to flip through your movie journal, gaining insights into your perspectives on the latest releases or timeless Hollywood classics.

A movie-watching journal example

  • Watch date: 14/09/23
  • Title: Barbie
  • Release date: 21/07/23
  • Running time: 114 minutes
  • Genre: Comedy/Fantasy
  • Starring: Margot Robbie & Ryan Gosling
  • Favourite quote:

“You have to be thin, but not too thin. And you can never say you want to be thin. You have to say you want to be healthy, but also you have to be thin. You have to have money, but you can’t ask for money because that’s crass. You have to be a boss, but you can’t be mean. You have to lead, but you can’t squash other people’s ideas. You’re supposed to love being a mother but don’t talk about your kids all the damn time. You have to be a career woman but also always be looking out for other people. You have to answer for men’s bad behaviour, which is insane, but if you point that out, you’re accused of complaining. You’re supposed to stay pretty for men, but not so pretty that you tempt them too much or that you threaten other women because you’re supposed to be a part of the sisterhood. But always stand out and always be grateful. But never forget that the system is rigged. So find a way to acknowledge that but also always be grateful. You have to never get old, never be rude, never show off, never be selfish, never fall down, never fail, never show fear, never get out of line.”

– Gloria to Barbie.

  • Rating: 3.5/5

Final thoughts

A film journal isn’t just a notebook for cinephiles — it’s a passport to a richer cinematic experience, personal growth, and potentially a pathway into filmmaking.

So, embrace the journey, start your movie journal, and let the magic of cinema unfold on its pages.

Lucy is our lead editor and has been passionate about stationery since childhood. She has a particular fondness for rollerball and calligraphy pens and is a keen advocate of snail mail.

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